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You may already know that rice is the main food in Thailand.

Although plain rice is widely consumed all over the country, sticky rice is a stable food for the people living in the north and northeast.

Sticky rice in Thai is khao niew. In this post we will explore plain steamed sticky rice, as well as sticky rice dessert.

Steamed Sticky Rice

Thais call it khao niew neung. Sticky rice is also known as sweet rice or glutinous rice, although it's gluten free.

The cooked sticky rice is sticky and more filling than normal rice. Since it keeps you full for a long time, it's really popular among people who do labor intensive work, such as rice farmers and construction workers. In addition, the same amount of sticky rice feeds many more people than normal rice.

Common sticky rice grains are white, although dark purple grains are also available. The latter kind is more chewy than white sticky rice.

How To Cook Sticky Rice

Sticky rice is more complicated to prepare than normal rice. Like legumes, first you need to soak the rice to soften the grains. Then, steam it in a coned shape bamboo basket steamer called huad neung khao niew.

Cooked sticky rice is often kept in a bamboo basket with a lid, called kratib khao niew, because it prevents vapor from accumulating. This natural container also protects the cooked rice from direct contact with air, which makes it dry and hard.

How To Eat Sticky Rice

Thais eat steamed sticky rice with the hand
People in the north and northeast of Thailand cook sticky rice at home every day. Thai sticky rice is very sticky, which makes it difficult to handle with utensils. In general, sticky rice is eaten with the right hand.

This is how north and northeastern Thais eat sticky rice. They pick up a small amount and gently squeeze it in the right hand. Then, they dip the rice in the food and pop it in the mouth. Actually, it's more fun to eat sticky rice with the hand!

They eat sticky rice with various kinds of chili paste, spicy sauces, soups, grilled or fried fish and meat. These dishes are accompanied by all sorts of vegetables, fresh or cooked.

Sticky rice is more filling and more difficult to digest than normal rice. It's a good idea to eat it in moderate amounts and with other foods, not on its own. Otherwise, you may have problems with indigestion.

Common Dishes Eaten With Sticky Rice

Sticky rice is often served with papaya salad and grilled chicken

Popular northeastern dishes or Isan food that are eaten with sticky rice include various types of jaew (chili sauce by itself or with grilled fish, frog, or other types of meat), papaya salad with fermented fish called pla rah, grilled chicken, nam tok (medium-rare grilled meat salad), lab (cooked chopped meat salad) and bamboo shoot salad.

The most common northern dishes eaten with sticky rice are nam prik ong (chili sauce with tomatoes and chopped pork), kaeng hang le (northern-style pork curry), kaeng ho (mixed vegetable curry),
Sticky rice and grilled pork is common at night markets in Thailand
sai ua (pork sausage with herbs) and grilled fish, pork or chicken.

Another must try food is sticky rice with barbecued or fried pork. This popular Thai food can be found at most morning and night markets.

I have a friend from the north of Thailand and she told me that her favorite dish is warm sticky rice with Thai-style omelette.

Sticky Rice Dessert

If you're not in the north or northeastern part of Thailand, it may be easier to find sticky rice desserts than steamed sticky rice. Most night markets and food courts have dessert vendors who usually sell sticky rice desserts.

How To Prepare Sticky Rice Dessert Base

Thais call sticky rice dessert base khao niew moon. It's prepared by adding coconut milk, sugar and some salt to freshly steamed sticky rice. Just bring the coconut milk to a light boil. Then, add sugar and some salt. When all the ingredients are well mixed, pour the mixture into a bowl of steamed sticky rice. Stir gently and cover the bowl with a lid. The sticky rice will absorb the rich flavor of the enriched coconut milk and become softer.

Many sticky rice dessert vendors add natural coloring to make it look more appealing: green from pandanus leaves, yellow from cumin and purple from butterfly pea flowers. Pandanus leaves also give out unique and gentle aroma.

Sticky Rice Dessert Varieties

There are many kinds of sticky rice desserts, but I will only mention the most common ones here. Thais' favorite sticky rice desserts are sticky rice with mango, sticky rice with durian sauce and sticky rice with various toppings.

The sticky rice desserts below are a combination of sticky rice dessert base and other extras.
Sticky rice with mango is a very popular dessert among Thais

Sticky Rice With Mango

The most popular sticky rice dessert is sticky rice with mango called khao niew ma muang. This is also a very common dessert served at Thai restaurants outside of Thailand. The main difference is the type of mango served.

In Thailand there are two kinds of mangoes that go well with sticky rice dessert. The first one is called ma muang ok rong, which is very popular among Thais because of its really sweet and rich flavor. It's also high in fiber.

Westerners, on the other hand, seem to like ma muang nam dok mai since it has a lighter flavor and more meat.

Sticky rice dessert base and mango is served with coconut cream. Most vendors sprinkle some deep fried mung beans on the sticky rice to add a crunchy texture.
Sticky rice with durian is a delicious Thai dessert

Sticky Rice With Durian

Another well-known sticky rice dessert among Thais is called khao niew nam gati turian or sticky rice dessert with durian sauce. The sauce is made of coconut milk, palm sugar and some salt.

Durian lovers go crazy over this dessert. At the same time, the over-powering smell of durian can be very disturbing to anyone who's not used to it.

Both of these desserts are available in season: mango from March to June, and durian from May to August. Sometimes, you can find these desserts off season, but at a much higher price.

Sticky Rice With Toppings

Another common dessert that is available all year round is sticky rice dessert with various toppings. They are normally sold in banana-leaf wrappings. Although, today styrofoam boxes are becoming more common.

Here is a variety of sticky rice desserts with toppings:

Sticky rice desserts in Thailand served with toppings
Yellow sticky rice dessert topped with ground grilled fish, that has been prepared with sliced shallot and sugar, called khao niew nah pla hang.

Black sticky rice dessert topped with shredded, sweetened coconut meat called khao niew nah kra cheek.

White sticky rice dessert topped with egg, coconut milk and palm-sugar custard called khao niew sang khaya.

Yellow sticky rice dessert topped with ground coconut meat, that has been fried with ground dried shrimps and chopped kaffir lime leaves called khao niew nah koong.

These sticky rice desserts are really common in Thailand, especially in rural areas. Some Thais even have it for breakfast.

So, what kind of Thai sticky rice would you like to try?

Suggested Reading:   Thai Breakfast   Vegetarian Festival

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